We’ve had a web page with etiquette tips for newer dancers for years, and most dancers who’ve been doing SCD for more than a year or two will probably not find any surprises there. We try to mention these points at Monday night classes, especially during the Fall when we have a lot of new beginners. However, there are some points of etiquette that pertain especially to more experienced dancers, and which are mentioned less often, if at all. With the ball season about to start, it seemed that now would be an especially good time to mention some of these.
1) Review the list of basic etiquette points listed at the link above. Be honest with yourself and note how many of these conventions you have been flouting or getting lazy about. We can’t really ask new dancers to follow them if the more experienced aren’t bothering.
2) It’s nice to help folks who need it (or who seem to need it) but don’t be bossy. No one likes to be told what to do constantly. We don’t want the dance to fall apart, but on the other hand we don’t want to alienate people by making them think they need to be told what to do every second. So unless a dancer has specifically asked you to give them that kind of help, back off a bit. This includes pointing and gesturing, not just talking. YES, THIS MEANS YOU!
3) Especially at a ball or social, don’t correct people in the middle of a dance when it will have no affect on the outcome of the dance or others’ ability to do the dance. Social dancing is not the time or place for that, as good as your intentions may be.
4) Ask beginners and people you don’t know to dance. Make them feel welcome.
5) The corollary to #4 is ask, but don’t press, unless it’s genuinely an easy dance, in which case a little encouragement might be in order for some of the shy folk. But you are doing no one any favors by coercing a less experienced or less capable dancer into a set whose members will then have to struggle to help them do the dance successfully. Ninety percent of the time, it’s possible to do a dance in a 3-, 5-, or 7-couple (beg & borrow) set if there aren’t enough couples to make up a set.
6) This one may be new to many people, and it may be strange, but it is true: If you are doing a 3-couple dance 8x through in a 5-couple set (such that the last 2 couples only get one repetition each as 1st couple), the 4th couple (who are at the top for the 7th repetition) should go to the bottom of the set after their turn, rather than staying in 2nd place. If you do the actual math, it turns out that everyone gets a more fair share of of dancing if 4th couple go to the bottom for the 8th repetition. Spread the word!
See you at the ball!